Meat Processors Take Caution With Chronic Wasting Disease

Deer season is ramping up in Michigan and as chronic wasting disease grows in the deer herd, some processors are bowing out.

Some meat processors in the hot zone for CWD are refusing to take in any venison this year, while other on the outskirts, are keeping an eye on where the deer are coming from.

“We don’t want to bring it into our USDA facility,” says Melissa Schoo, Senior Processing Coordinator at Ebels in Falmouth.

Ebels processes a lot of meat and of almost every kind, including venison. But as the threat of CWD grows, they are taking extra steps.

“There’s too many variables that you not sure of yet,” says Schoo.

The DNR has designated five counties in midMichigan as hot beds for the disease while 11 more are in the danger zone. Ebels, and many other processors, will not accept venison from these counties without testing, to keep their business free of the disease and help the DNR contain it.

“The DNR don’t want to lose their hunting,: says Schoo, “That’s their bread and butter.”

Ebels consistently processes 1,800 deer a year and despite a situation like this, the number may actually grow this year.

“It really could be because your normal processor that you always brought your deer back home to isn’t going to do it,” says Schoo.

Places like Sage’s in Greenville.

“It takes a lot of headaches off of me, off of the business just not to do them,” says Dean Carter, owner of Sage’s.

They are cutting out venison completely, no matter where it is from.

“Some people are quite upset. ‘I’ve been coming here for 50 some years and how come you’re not doing them?’’ says Harter, “You know we just told them we made the decision and that’s what it’s going to be.”

CWD is not been proven to infect humans but it hasn’t been proven to be harmless either. There’s still a demand for processed venison and there are people that will still do it, you options are just slimmer now.

“If they do call we try our best to direct them in the right direction,” says Schoo.